Thursday, December 22, 2011

drag2share: Diamond Weevil√Ęs Rainbow Bling Really Is Diamond

Source: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/diamond-weevil-rainbow-scales/

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Brazilian diamond weevil

Like a gem-studded overcoat, the diamond weevil's jet-black wings are covered by pits filled with sparkling, rainbow-colored scales.

Researchers have studied these "diamonds" since the weevil's discovery in the early 19th century but, until recently, no one knew know how the scales reflected so much light.

A new high-tech investigation reveals the diamonds are just that: chitin in a diamond-type arrangement that's optimized to throw off brilliant greens, yellows and oranges. What most people call diamonds are made of carbon, but other materials can take on the same crystal structure, called diamond cubic.

"Materials scientists could look to these scales to inspire new materials, but we don't yet know how they are made," said biophysicist Bodo Wilts of the University of Groningen, co-author of a Dec. 21 study of the scales in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

"We've got some catching up to do," Wilts said. "The nature-produced tiny structures are far beyond any human designs."

The scales are a type of three-dimensional crystal, called a photonic crystal, which is much like an opal. Each kind of photonic crystal reflects a specific wavelength of light at a specific orientation. Other crystals lacking a regular 3-D structure, meanwhile, aren't as brilliant or iridescent.

Wilts' team used a battery of tools to investigate the photonic studs the inch-long weevil, the Brazilian species of which is known as Entimus imperialis (pictured above). Follow along in this gallery.

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All images: Bodo Wilts/Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Citation: “Hemispherical Brillouin zone imaging of a diamond-type biological photonic crystal.” By Bodo D. Wilts, Kristel Michielsen, Hans De Raedt and Doekele G. Stavenga. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, published online Dec. 21, 2011. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2011.0730

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Monday, December 19, 2011

drag2share: Algal protein gives boost to electrochemical water splitting

Source: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-12-algal-protein-boost-electrochemical.html

Photosynthesis is considered the 'Holy Grail' in the field of sustainable energy generation because it directly converts solar energy into storable fuel using nothing but water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Scientists have long tried to mimic the underlying natural processes and to optimize them for energy device applications such as photo-electrochemical cells (PEC), which use sunlight to electrochemically split water – and thus directly generate hydrogen, cutting short the more conventional approach using photovoltaic cells for the electrolysis of water.

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drag2share: Scientists create first solar cell with over 100 percent quantum efficiency

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/19/scientists-create-first-solar-cell-with-over-100-percent-quantum/

Researchers over at the National Renewable Energy Lab have reportedly made the first solar cell with an external quantum efficiency over 100 percent. Quantum efficiency relates to the number of electrons-per-second flowing in a solar cell circuit, divided by the number of photons from the energy entering. The NREL team recorded an efficiency topping out at 114 percent, by creating the first working multiple exciton generation (MEG) cell. Using MEG, a single high energy photon can produce more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon. The extra efficiency comes from quantum dots 'harvesting' energy that would otherwise be lost as heat. The cell itself uses anti-reflection coating on a transparent conductor, layered with zinc oxide, lead selenide, and gold. NREL scientist Arthur J. Nozik predicted as far back as 2001 that MEG would do the job, but it's taken until now for the concept to leap over from theory. The hope is, of course, that this will lead to more competitively priced solar power, fueling the transport of the future.

Scientists create first solar cell with over 100 percent quantum efficiency originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 19 Dec 2011 06:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink PhysOrg &! nbsp;|&n bsp; sourceScience Mag  | Email this | Comments

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

drag2share: Australia's Prototype Wave Generators Move like an Electrified Kelp Forest [Video]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5868304/australias-prototype-wave-generators-move-like-an-electrified-kelp-forest

The gentle swaying of kelp forests belies the immense hydraulic pressures they've evolved to endure. The waves that crash over them transfer huge amounts of energy—an average of 36kW/m with three-foot swells. Now, a green energy firm is banking on this sway to run arrays of Megawatt generators of the coast of Victoria.

The bioWAVE is mounted on the seafloor with a pivot hinge just up from the base. From this pivot, a trio of cylindrical blades extend to reach up to just below the surface—generating power without spoiling to view from shore. These blades are buoyant so they can interact with both ocean swells—as potential energy—and horizontal wave motions below the surface—as kinetic energy.

Since the hinge pivots, the blades can move constantly regardless of the precise direction of the waves—like a piece of kelp. As the blades move about, they compress fluid in the base of the station that drives the unit's O-Drive hydraulic mechanism that converts the pressure into electricity. According to bioPower Systems, "Within each 250kW module, two hydraulic cylinders deliver high pressure fluid to a bank of accumulators which in turn supply a uniform flow to a hydraulic motor that is directly coupled to an electric generator" with the resulting charge sent back to shore and onto the grid. The drive is specifically designed to regulate the high-pressure input from wave actions into a standardized AC current.

The current 250kW prototype will work at depths up to 30 meters. If the testing in successful, a 1MW commercial-grade unit will be able to harvest energy as far down as 45 meters. So, what happens if a typhoon or tsunami comes rolling ashore? In the event of extreme waves, the system is engineered to lay flat against the seafloor, allowing the massive hydraulic pressures to pass over it harmlessly.

An array of these generators will soon be installed off the coast of Port Fairy, Victoria.The four-year pilot program will cost roughly $14 million. Only $10 million or so has currently been raised. [BioPower Energy Systems - Gizmag - Wave Power Wiki]

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

drag2share: Who Wins In The Contest Between Wind And Solar?

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/who-wins-in-the-contest-between-wind-and-solar-2011-12


[This post by Tom Murphy, associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, is republished with permission from The Oil Drum.]

For me, the most delightful turn of events in the ultimate nerd-song “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants, is that after introducing (in order of complexity) particle-man, triangle-man, universe-man, and person-man—and learning that triangle-man naturally beats particle-man in a match up—we pit person-man against triangle-man to discover that triangle wins—again.

In this post, we’ll pit solar against wind and see who wins.

battery wind solar

I will take my usual approach and estimate what I can—as opposed to researching the results of detailed studies. It’s part of the process of personal mastery of the big-picture issues, while also providing a sanity-check. In exploring useful reactions to the looming peak oil crisis (or pick your favorite rationale for weaning ourselves from fossil fuels), an appropriate strategy is to assess ballpark capacities of the various options.

Some will prove to be orders-of-magnitude more prodigious than we need, others will be marginal, and many will show themselves to be woefully inadequate to match the required scale. So the goal is to perform this crude sorting process into abundant, useful, and waste of time.

Earth’s Energy Budget

Since many of the options I will discuss in the coming weeks ultimately derive from the Sun, it is useful to throw up an energy budget.

earth energy budget

Figure 1

Of the 1370 W/m² incident on the upper atmosphere from the Sun, 30% is reflected straight away without pausing long enough to say hello. About 20% is absorbed in the atmosphere and clouds, and 50% gets absorbed at ground level. Note that 7% of the energy budget goes into conduction and rising air (separate phenomena; the latter relating to wind). Virtually no heat is able to conduct through the thick atmosphere, so really this figure is all about convection, or moving air.

For comparison, the energy consumption (conversion) rate of the human race is about 13 TW (13 trillion Watts), which works out to an average of about 2,000 W per person on the globe (Americans are 10 kW). We can also divide by the area of the globe to get a power density of 0.025 W per square meter, or 0.09 W/m² if we just count land area.

Solar Potential

If 50% of the incoming solar radiation makes its way to the ground, then we have about 700 W/m² for the average terrestrial square meter facing the Sun. But the Sun puts this onto the projected πR² area of the Earth (the disk of the Earth as seen from the Sun), while the actual 3-D globe has an area of 4πR². So we must divide by four to get the flux per unit area of actual terra firma, yielding 170 W/m². We can think of this factor of four as being made up of a factor of two for day and night, plus a factor of two because the Sun is not overhead all the time, resulting in a loss of intensity per square meter at the ground.

A panel tilted to the site latitude can compensate for some of the slanted-sun-angle loss (for high latitudes, the ground always suffers from this geometric dilution, even at “high” noon), so that the ½ factor becomes 2/π, or 0.64, representing a global 30% boost over horizontal panels. In this scheme, we get 220 W/m² for our latitude-tilted panel (nearly independent of latitude, weather notwithstanding). The tilted panels will require more land to avoid self-shadowing, so that the amount of land area needed is stuck with the pre-adjusted value of 170 W/m².

Note how much bigger the solar potential is than our demand of 0.09 W/m² of land area. This implies that we need only 0.05% of the land to capture adequate sunlight, or that enough sunlight strikes land (the entire Earth) in 4.5 hours (1.25 hours) to satisfy our needs for a year. That’s a powerful resource!

But once we factor in efficiency—say 10% for simplicity and conservatism—we need ten times the land area computed above. Still, it’s a pittance. I have used the following graphic before to illustrate how much land would be occupied by solar photovoltaics (PV) at 8% efficiency to produce 18 TW of electrical output (note that about half of the 13 TW consumption today is lost in heat engines, so 18 TW of electricity more than satisfies our current demand).

solar land worldFigure 2. The land area needed to produce 18 terawatts (50% larger than 2010 value) using 8% efficient photovoltaics, shown as black dots.

I’ll put solar in the “abundant” box.

Capturing Sun

Catching energy from the Sun is pretty simple. Sit in the sun on a cool day and benefit from its warmth. Situate your house so that south-facing windows can swallow sunlight and offset (or obviate) conventional sources of heat. Use thermal collectors for domestic hot water and/or interior heating. Stick a PV panel outside and it will generate electricity provided it is not placed face-down. Concentrate sunlight to heat a fluid and/or create steam for electricity production in a heat engine (possibly combined with thermal storage). Lots of options, when the sun shines.

Many react to my solar enthusiasm by pointing out that San Diego is an exceptional place for solar—so no wonder I’m enamored. But San Diego is only 19% better than a typical location in the lower-48 states (we get a lot of marine-layer clouds: May Gray is followed by June Gloom, and sometimes July Nebulae—okay, the last rhyme is my own Latin-nerd invention, so groans excused).

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) performed a 30-year study of insolation for 239 sites in the U.S. (data here), out of which one can see that the worst study location in the lower-48 (Quillayute, WA on the Olympic Peninsula) is only a factor of two worse than the best study location (Dagget, CA in the Mojave Desert). It turns out that St. Louis, Missouri wins the prize for most typical solar location, based on a variety of measures. It gets an annual average of 4.8 kWh/m²/day (which, conveniently, is equivalent to 4.8 hours of full, direct sun each day, since the full, direct sun delivers approximately 1 kW/m² of power). Divide this number by 24 to get kW/m² for comparison with our previous assessments: 200 W/m² for St. Louis.

A table comparing the worst, typical, and best sites in the U.S. provides some useful numbers to chew on. For each location, three modes are considered: flat panel tilted at latitude (typical PV); flat panel with 2-axis tracking of the Sun; and concentration requiring 2-axis tracking and direct sun (e.g., for solar thermal, which is intolerant of clouds). For each mode, three daily-average numbers are given: worst month—yearly average—best month. Values are in kWh/m²/day, and averaged over the 30-year data span. Yearly variation is detailed in the raw data. Think of the numbers as equivalent full-sun hours per day.

best us solar

Table 1

I threw in San Diego, California and Fairbanks, Alaska for reference. I could devote a whole post to chewing on these results and what they tell us. I won’t, but I can’t help pointing out that Fairbanks—at 65° latitude—is competitive with Quillayute, and on an annual average basis gathers 50% as much energy as the smokin’ California desert! Yes, December is bleak, and seasonal storage is very tough. But still, I’m impressed.

Wind Potential

Wind represents a secondary solar energy flow, coming from differential solar heating of the land and from convection induced by temperature gradients in the atmosphere (hot below, cool on top). Wind is therefore like solar crumbs on the table and is destined to be a small fraction of the direct solar potential. How much would you guess? 1%, 5%, 10%? What handles might we put on it as an estimate?

One approach is to note that convection is a thermal process driven by the temperature difference between the warm surface and the cool heights. The maximum thermodynamic efficiency for producing mechanical energy out of a thermal system (we call this a heat engine) is (ThTc)/Th, where subscripts denote the hot and cold limits, expressed in Kelvin. The troposphere—from the ground up to about 10 km, where weather lives—has an average surface temperature of about 290 K and tropopause temperature of about 230 K, leading to a maximum efficiency of 20%. But now we get to chop this down according to the notions that about half of the cooling in the atmosphere is via direct radiation and not convection, that a fraction of the total convective energy will manifest itself in horizontal winds, and that there will also be viscous losses turning the kinetic energy of wind back to heat in the atmosphere. So I end up estimating that less than 5% of the thermal energy deposited by the Sun ends up driving horizontal winds.

Another handle we might try is to guess that a typical wind speed in the troposphere is 20 m/s (44 m.p.h.), and note that each square meter of land has 104 kg sitting on top of it (leading to mg = 105 N/m² of pressure, or 14 pounds per square inch). So the kinetic energy in the air is ½mv² = 2 MJ over each square meter. Now comes the tricky part. If we instantly sapped all that energy from the air, how long would it take to re-establish the full flow as if nothing had happened? I’m going to say one day, or 86,400 seconds. I am simultaneously tempted to go longer and shorter. Neurosis can be the sign of a decent guess. This translates to a power density of about 25 W/m², which is about 7% of total solar input. Not bad for ballpark. Noting that the energy budget graphic above puts rising air at 7% of the total solar budget, we might guess 5% in horizontal winds as an upper bound. This gives 17 W/m², an order of magnitude less than sunlight available at the surface. Ah—but how much of this wind energy is available at the surface?

Capturing Wind

Catching the wind can be a subtle enterprise. Greed is punished. By robbing all the kinetic energy out of an oncoming wind, the air must necessarily stop, so that the oncoming airflow diverts around the obstacle. Theoretically, an isolated windmill could capture 59% of the kinetic energy incident on the rotor area before becoming self-limited (called the Betz limit). Engineering practicalities impose further limitations, so that the best windmills today achieve 40–50% total efficiency.

How much power will a windmill generate? If the air velocity is v, each second of time delivers a tube of air with volume Av, where A is the area of the rotor (πD²/4, if D is the rotor diameter). The mass of air incident on the windmill each second is then ρAv, where ρ ≈ 1.2 kg/m³ is the density of air. The kinetic energy available per second, or power, is therefore P = ½ρAv³. Then we’d multiply this by the net efficiency (<50%) to get power delivered. Note the cubic dependence on velocity. This is a big deal. Cut the wind in half and suffer a factor of eight less available power. The largest wind turbines in the world now have a rotor diameter of 126 m and generate up to 7.6 MW (which I calculate corresponds to v = 13 m/s, or 29 m.p.h.). Windmills usually self-limit at higher wind velocities or else risk literally being blown to pieces.

Assuming that our windmills could lay claim only to the lower 150 m of the atmosphere, we access 180 kg/m² of air above the ground, which is 1.8% of the total we used to drive our calculations. This turns our 17 W/m² into 0.31 W/m². Factoring in efficiency of collection, I get 0.15 W/m², which is marginally larger than our land-based need. And I must bear in mind that I considered 5% to be an upper-bound estimate of the fraction of solar input energy converted to horizontal wind. And I have not addressed the fact that wind near the surface is lighter than winds aloft. On the other hand, winds are not strictly stratified, so that new energy can enter from above, extending our reach above the 150 m limit I used.

On balance, wind certainly goes into the “useful” box. But considering practicalities, wind may not be capable of satisfying our total demand the way solar so easily can, even if deployed across 100% of the land area.

Solar and Wind Have a Fight

Who wins? It depends on what you value most. If it’s installed capacity, wind smokes solar. If it’s total available resource, solar wins hands-down. Economically, wind comes in cheaper per peak Watt or per kWh produced, so it wins this contest. Small scale (home) installations: solar takes it. Night-time: advantage wind. Intermittency: both lose (though often in complementary ways).

When I first started educating myself about alternative energies, I kept seeing plots of solar potential (insolation) and wind potential in units of W/m². Wind looked far better than solar. For instance, the solar map for annual insolation in the U.S. looks like:

solar insolation usFigure 3. Annual insolation. Multiply values by 1000 and divide by 24 to get units of W/m².

Here, the values are given in kWh/m²/day, so to get W/m², just multiply by 1000 and divide by 24. For instance, the bright yellow covering Missouri is 4.5–5.0 kWh/m²/day, or 188–208 W/m². The steps are in increments of 0.5 kWh/m²/day, or about 20 W/m². This puts the most orange regions in the desert southwest at 271 292 W/m².

Meanwhile, the map for wind for sites deemed to be worth development looks like:

wind potential us

Figure 4

Note that the best sites exceed 800 W/m², and large land areas approach 500 W/m². On the face of it, this looks far better than solar. But beware: the area in the denominator for wind power density is the area of the rotornot the land area as is effectively the case for the solar map (panel tilt amounts to a 15% boost at 30° latitude, 41% boost at 45°).

A rule of thumb for a field of windmills is that they should not be closer than 5 rotor diameters side-by-side (relative to wind direction) and 10 rotor diameters in the wind direction (some use >4 and >7, respectively). Otherwise one windmill blocks the next, bogging down the wind and diverting the flow around the hindrance. The result is that each windmill stakes out a land area 50 square rotor diameters, while the rotor itself is π/4 square rotor diameters. The rotors therefore occupy only 1.6% of the land area, so that the raging 800 W/m² by rotor area becomes 13 W/m² by land area, and the inland hotspots become 8 W/m².

The upshot is that a 1 m² patch of flat land in the Texas panhandle might get 200 W of average sunlight (downward corrected for latitude tilt), compared to 8 W of wind power. If we convert sunlight to electricity at 15% efficiency, and wind at 45% efficiency (typical numbers), we have 30 W vs. 3.5 W. Solar beats wind (in that same location) by an order of magnitude. Comparing optimal solar sites to optimal wind sites (taking 1000 W/m² by rotor area), solar wins by a factor of five.

As a side exploration, if I look at the wind picture above, and use Lake Michigan as a reference area for water and Nebraska as a typical area for a state (at 60,000 km² and 200,000 km², respectively), I count about 8 lakes’-worth of offshore red, one lake’s-worth of offshore blue, and about 7 more of orange-to pink. Add to this 8 states’-worth of orange-pink on land and we have 13 TW of offshore wind potential and 4.5 TW of land-based potential represented in the graphic (while using 3 TW). My earlier estimate of 0.15 W/m² of wind potential, when multiplied by the area of the lower-48 states gives about 1.2 TW. I am left to puzzle over the disparity. My estimate is capped by the 7% of energy allocated to moving air in the solar energy budget, so either the estimates based on the map are wildly optimistic (e.g., the power density is based on isolated windmills, while full-scale deployment may create enough friction to substantially alter wind patterns; and/or because I did not apply efficiency factors), or my restriction of using the bottom 150 m of atmosphere neglected possible energy replenishment from vertical currents. See the Appendix for comparison to studies and some insight into the mismatch.

Triangle Wins

Solar and Wind have been vying for purchase in the energy game for many years now. Who is winning? Fossil fuels: they still beat the pants off either one. That’s our triangle. Fossil fuels are cheap and reliable and are their own storage and allow transportation by car, truck, ship, airplane, and fit seamlessly into our current infrastructure. Wind—and especially solar—don’t generally compete price-wise. Both are intermittent, so that they won’t fit into our current infrastructure at a large scale, requiring substantial storage and transmission in order to become major providers of energy. Neither one really helps with the liquid fuels crunch we will experience in the oil decline phase. Electric cars are unlikely to penetrate the market quickly and cheaply enough to avert hardship.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of both forms of energy production—especially solar. I’m swayed by the raw numbers solar has on its side. I have a home-built stand-alone PV system and golf-cart batteries that provides most of my electricity (as a hobby with benefits). I am delighted by the fact that wind now generates about 1% of the electricity in the U.S. for prices that are not terribly greater than for conventional power. I personally think that we should get over our gripes about these things being more expensive than our old friends, and embrace them full-scale—dealing with the costs, intermittency, storage issues, transmission build-up, together with a reduction in our total demand.

I know these things are possible, and that we have in the Sun and wind resources that can satisfy our (hopefully reduced) needs from a physical point of view. But the idea that people would voluntarily commit to this more expensive course of action in a timely manner seems to be pure fantasy. Only rising energy costs will drive us. And we risk waiting too late. And we find ourselves in The Energy Trap. And we learn that everything gets more expensive when energy prices soar—even the renewables that are supposed to be the escape route. Our indebted economy and polarized political system crack under the stress. Substitutes do not sweep in to save the day. Person-man meets Energy-man. They have a fight, triangle wins. Triangle-Man.

Appendix

As part of an undergraduate research project, Thomas Tu sifted through credible assessments of wind potential for comparison to my estimations. For context, my endpoint estimate was 0.15 W/m², which translates to about 21 TW if 100% of Earth’s land area were to be developed. We consume about 13 TW globally, and have 0.045 TW of wind power installed.

Among the finds was a gem of a paper by Carlos de Castro et al., winning my Most Valuable Paper award for several reasons. First, it summarizes estimates of global wind potential from a variety of sources. Second, it follows a top-down approach much like I did here (starting with the total energy budget available). Third, it points out that many bottom-up estimates (starting with the output of a wind farm and scaling up) violate energy conservation by ending up with more energy than is available in the system. The full PDF is access-restricted, but the basic points are summarized in a post on the Oil Drum.

As summarized in the paper, estimates of global potential range from 1 TW to 80 TW. Assessments of economic viability tend to put us at no more than 5 TW by 2050, and the ultimately sustainable wind potential is estimated at about 7 TW. One important thing to note is that estimates vary by a lot—meaning that we are not yet sure whether wind can fill a substantial part of our current demand.

What I found especially useful about the de Castro et al. approach was a set of numerical values for the total power dissipated by wind in the troposphere (these numbers range from 340–3600 TW, again covering a wide range). They pick 1200 TW as the most physically realistic. The next step is to estimate how much energy is available in the lowest 200 m, which they approach by three independent methods, all pointing to about 100 TW. Note that this is about four times larger than the strict proportional amount (200 m out of 10 km would yield 2% of 1200 TW, or 24 TW). So in effect, this contains the energy replenishment I suspected I missed: dissipation of wind energy takes place disproportionately near the ground. Applied to usable land (avoid ice sheets, etc.), we have 20 TW available worldwide. They proceed to apply various practical efficiency constraints—many of which I left out of my analysis. These factors are summarized in the Oil Drum article—ending up with an estimate for global potential of about 1 TW.

Even if this estimate is an order-of-magnitude too pessimistic (though I resonate with their top-down common-sense approach), the result is the same: wind deserves a place in the “useful” box, but it does not have the numbers behind it to make it an over-abundant resource like the Sun.

This is a guest post by Tom Murphy. Tom is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. This post originally appeared on Tom's blog Do the Math.

This post originally appeared at The Oil Drum.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

drag2share: Plant growth affected by tea seed powder

Source: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-12-growth-affected-tea-seed-powder.html

Natural products marketed as plant growth enhancers are becoming increasingly sought-after. Many of these products, typically produced by small companies with limited research capabilities, have not been tested in farm trials, nor have claims about product effectiveness been documented by scientific data. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen investigated the growth regulatory effect of Tea Seed Powder (TSP), a saponin-rich waste product from tea seed (Camellia sp.) oil production. The results of research appeared in the HortScience.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

drag2share: Your Spam Filter Is Helping Tackle HIV [Video]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5865013/your-spam-filter-is-helping-tackle-hiv

Everybody hates spam. Everybody hates HIV. So the fact that Microsoft is sharing its knowledge of spam filter design to help scientists fight the virus is all kinds of good.

Miscrosoft Research have teamed up with the Ragon Institute — a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital which is dedicated to finding an HIV/AIDS vaccine that actually works.

But what has spam got to do with it? Well, it turns out that HIV mutates over time in a way that is analogous to the way email spammers change their tactics to beat filters. The HIV virus is always looking for a different way to beat the human immune system, which is the exact same problem faced by anyone keen to block spam.

So Microsoft have stepped in to help the Ragon Institute by re-purposing the tools they use to filter out spam in Hotmail and Outlook to predict likely HIV mutations. They've already developed an application called PhyloD which crunches through the massive amount of data coming out of the Ragon Institute.

In fact, with PhyloD, Microsoft were able to process a year's worth of data over a weekend explains Microsoft's David Heckerman:

"[Ragon director Bruce Walker] had this great data set but he didn't know how to analyze it. We happened to have just the right algorithm for it and this large bank of computers at Microsoft that could do this massive amount of computation. He gave us the problem on Friday. On Monday, we had a completed analysis for him."

The result? The discovery of six times as many possible attack points on the HIV virus than had been identified in the past. [Microsoft Research via Threat Post]

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red LEDs Grow Lettuce 3x Faster and with 60% Less Energy


Red LEDs to Grow Lettuce

by JUSTIN THOMAS on APRIL 14, 2005

0405pess01.jpgApparently red LEDs are 60% more efficient than fluorescent light when growing vegetables hydroponically.

According to IEEE Spectrum Online: Of all the colors of the rainbow, red is lettuce's favorite. Chlorophyll, the electrochemical engine of photosynthesis, runs on red photons. So if you are growing the vegetable indoors in a factory, why waste energy on colors you don't need?

Using a red LED-based growth process developed by Cosmo Plant Co., in Fukuroi, Japan, instead of a fluorescent lighting based one, cuts a factory's electric bill by 60 percent, the company told Agence France Press.

Cosmo's customers uses the technology to produce 7000 heads of lettuce per day all year round in a 10-floor building on just 1000 square meters of space. The lettuce matures more than three times as fast under the LEDs than outdoors. While growing lettuce in an open field is still less costly, growing it inside under LEDs means you don't have to worry about crop-decimating typhoons and other nasty weather. 

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Monday, November 28, 2011

drag2share: Engineered Avian Flu Could Kill Half the World's Humans [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5863078/engineered-avian-flu-could-kill-half-the-worlds-humans

Engineered Avian Flu Could Kill Half the World's HumansThis isn't a movie. It's not a classic Science Fiction book. This is the real story of a scientist who created a virus with the power to litter the Earth with billions of dead bodies.

OK, now breathe. Or maybe don't—the virus is airborne.

In his Netherlands laboratory, virologist Ron Fouchier was experimenting with the avian flu virus to see how it could become even more virulent. (Red flag.) His research involved spreading it throughout a population of ferrets, and he noticed that as the virus reproduced, it adapted to spread even faster. (RED FLAG.) Not worried about ferret flu? Previous research has shown that any strains of influenza that can pass between ferrets can also pass between humans. (RED FLAAAAAAAAAG.) Ten generations later, his efforts had created an airborne strain with the power could kill half the human population. (RED FUCKING FLAG, DUDE!)

Fouchier, who conducted his research at Erasmus Medical Centre admitted that the new strain is "probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make." He presented his work at the influenza conference in Malta this September. Now he wants to publish his study in a scientific journal, so those responsible for responding to bioterrorism can be prepared for the worst case scenario. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not exactly. The research has set off alarms among colleagues who are urging Fouchier not to publish, for fear the recipe could wind up in the wrong hands. Some question whether the research should have been done in the first place. Fair point!

Typically H5N1 affects birds, but about 10 years ago it emerged in humans, first in Asia, then traveling around the world. Human cases are rare—about 600 total—but they are deadly, killing about half the people infected.

The reason avian flu isn't more common is because it's not an airborne contagion—at least it hasn't been until now. With the un-engineered version, you have to touch something that's been contaminated to get sick. But Fouchier's version is airborne, meaning being in the vicinity of the disease and breathing it in would be enough to contract it. It's as contagious as the human seasonal flu, but much more deadly. And now Fouchier wants to publish how he made it that way.

His fellow bioterrorism experts are thinking that's maybe not the best idea, because then anyone who got their hands on the paper could reproduce Fouchier's results. Microbial geneticist Paul Keim, an anthrax expert and chair of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (which will decide whether Fouchier can publish) told Science Insider:

I can't think of another pathogenic organism that is as scary as this one. I don't think anthrax is scary at all compared to this.

But Fouchier and a handful of other scientists who have performed similar experiments believe publishing would help the scientific community prepare for an H5N1 pandemic. Not publishing, they say, could leave researchers in the dark as to how to respond to an outbreak. But a pandemic made possible in the first place by the publication creates a bit of a chicken and egg question—and that's why the NSAB has an unenviably difficult decision to make.

[Science Insider via Geekosystem and RT]


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drag2share: America's Water Pipes Are Failing and We Need to Fix Them...Fast [Water]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5862995/americas-water-pipes-are-failing-and-we-need-to-fix-themfast

America's Water Pipes Are Failing and We Need to Fix Them...FastBy and large, America's water infrastructure is on the cusp of disrepair. Environmentalists and public health officials have been chattering about this for years, but now the problem has become more urgent and we need to overhaul much of it in a hurry.

According to David Lepeska, rotting pipes are responsible for floods, illness affecting millions, and trillion of gallons of water lost due to leakage. But logistical issues aside, the cost of such stripping out over half the nation's water pipes, some of which are over a hundred of years old, comes at a great cost. A cost likely to be passed down to residents.

The EPA estimates that adequately upgrading the nation's water infrastructure would cost between $750 billion and $1 trillion over the next couple decades. Yet with the protracted recession, neither cities nor the federal government have funds to spare. And because water infrastructure is mainly underground and out of sight, political will in Washington remains low. Only about $10 billion of the $787 billion 2009 stimulus package was aimed at water infrastructure. What's more, the federal government's share of water infrastructure spending has plummeted from about 75 percent to about 3 percent in the past 35 years, according to Ken Kirk of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Lepeska suggests we need pipes that are smart and equipped with tech that will indicate where the water infrastructure is failing, pointing out systems that have already been implemented in cities such as Dallas and Las Vegas. He also calls for the widespread adoption of repair technology which uses robots which require no excavation of land to complete their tasks.

And increased water rates may sound like a burden, but so would the public health disasters that would ensue if nothing is done at all. [Atlantic Ciies]

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

drag2share: Airdrop, Which Harvests Moisture Directly From Desert Air, Wins James Dyson Award

Source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-11/airdrop-irrigation-system-pulls-moisture-dry-desert-air-wins-dyson-award

Edward Linacre and Airdrop James Dyson Foundation

The James Dyson Award winners for 2011 have been announced, and the grand prize winner is a piece of clever biomimicry that sits so perfectly in our wheelhouse that we couldn't resist the urge to write about it. Edward Linacre of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has tapped the Namib beetle--a desert dwelling species that survives in the most arid conditions on Earth--to create an irrigation system that can pull liquid moisture straight out of dry desert air.

Airdrop, as the system is known, borrows a trick from the Namib beetle, which can live in areas that receive just half an inch of rain per year by harvesting the moisture from the air that condenses on its back during the early morning hours. A hydrophilic skin helps to snare water molecules passing on the breeze, which then accumulate into droplets of consumable liquid water.

Airdrop mimics this idea, though on a larger scale. The self-powering device pumps water into a network of underground pipes, where it cools enough for water to condensate. From there the moisture is delivered to the roots of nearby plants. Linacre's math shows that about 11.5 milliliters can be harvested from every cubic meter of air, and further development could raise that number even higher.

Such a system could provide regular moisture to plants being grown in the world's driest regions. And because it is low cost and self-powered, there's not a lot of investment or maintenance involved in deploying Airdrop. The $14,000 award from Dyson (Linacre's university also gets an additional $14,000) should help speed that along.

This year's runners up included a quickly deployable divider for medical settings that lets healthcare professionals make the most of available space and an aide for the blind that uses a special cane and location-based social networking apps to help the visually impaired locate their friends. All of this year's entries can be seen here.

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drag2share: Revealed! Every Evil Atom of the H1N1 Flu Virus [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5859830/revealed-every-evil-atom-of-the-h1n1-flu-virus

Revealed! Every Evil Atom of the H1N1 Flu VirusThe H1N1 flu pandemic killed 17,000 people across the globe between 2009 and 2010. Pretty terrifying. To prevent that from ever happening again, scientists have created a super-detailed computer model of the killer virus.

Researchers at the Institute of Process Engineering at the Chinese Academy of Sciences generated the first computational model of H1N1 at the atomic level, reports Popular Science. The Chinese scientists used molecular-dynamics simulations, their Mole-8.5 supercomputer, and 2,200 graphics processors to build the model.

We actually created an 'electronic pet' in the computer, which we can experiment with under many different environments and conditions with a variety of drugs, and we can know every detail of the change in the virion, says Dr. Wei Ge, a professor of chemical engineering at CAS-IPE and a principal in the H1N1 modeling effort, told PopSci via email. Therefore, we believe it could provide a possible way to bridge virology, epidemiology, and drug design on the molecular level.

They can use their nasty little pet to simulate how the virus will behave in various conditions, including when treated with a potential drug. And it can all be done without stepping foot inside a laboratory and risking potential exposure to the bug. The simulation moves relatively slowly now, but they hope to get the speed fast enough that they could create vaccines on the fly as pathogens crop up.

This is definitely one time when a virtual pet is better than the real thing. [Popular Science]

Image: CDC


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Thursday, November 10, 2011

drag2share: Philips Beehive Concept Has Urban Farmers Abuzz [Homemod]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5858144/a-beehive-for-the-urban-farmer

Philips Beehive Concept Has Urban Farmers AbuzzUrban beekeeping is reemerging as a popular pastime for city-dwellers but a stack of conventional hive boxes won't generally fit in a third-story apartment. Philips' new urban beehive concept, however, aims to bring a colony to every balcony in your town.

The hive consists of a smart-looking central chamber pre-loaded with honeycomb frames. Bees enter through an entrance above the potted flower and can be observed through the glass partition a la ant farms. The pull cord at the bottom releases smoke to calm the colony while you collect honey. Because filling your home with a few thousand pissed-off poisonous insects is generally not recommended.

Given that bee colonies worldwide are on the decline, a legion of these urban beehives could help stave off the population crash. Plus—free honey, free honey for everybody! [CNET]


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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

drag2share: A simple compound with surprising antifreeze properties

Source: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-simple-compound-antifreeze-properties.html

A chemical compound used to stabilize particles in suspension has proved capable of controlling the growth of ice crystals. This finding was made by CNRS/Saint-Gobain researchers in France. Surprisingly, the compound in question is a simple molecule, not at all like the macromolecules previously known for their antifreeze properties. It offers many advantages, including low production costs, stability and ease of use, which should open the way to industrial applications. Published in the online journal PLoS ONE, this work also provides new leads for the development of synthetic equivalents of antifreeze proteins, different from those currently produced.

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drag2share: Biosensing tool to detect salmonella holds promise for preventing common food poisoning

Source: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-biosensing-tool-salmonella-common-food.html

Pick your poison from this smorgasbord of recent salmonella outbreaks in the United States: ground turkey; fresh papayas; alfalfa sprouts. That's in 2011 alone, and the list goes on, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But perhaps not for long, thanks to a promising new biosensor nanotechnology that could identify the presence of salmonella bacteria before contaminated food or animals reach the marketplace.

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drag2share: The UK Wave Hub Powers 7,500 Cornish Homes [Monster Machines]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5852991/the-uk-wave-hub-powers-7500-cornish-homes

The UK Wave Hub Powers 7,500 Cornish HomesThe English coast isn't exactly suitable for large-scale solar projects but does have plenty of another renewable energy source: waves. This device turns all that kinetic energy into a vast swath of electricity. Here's how.

The Wave Hub is a 12-ton device located 16 kilometers offshore from Hayle, on the north coast of Cornwall, UK. The Wave Hub doesn't actually produce any electrical current itself. Instead it collects the energy generated from four wave-powered arrays covering eight square kilometers of North Sea and feeds it back to an onshore substation via a 25 kilometer-long, 1300 ton, 11kV sub-sea cable.

While the Hub is owned and developed by the South West of England Regional Development Agency, the actual power generation is handled by one of four developers: Ocean Power Technologies Limited, Fred Olsen Limited, Oceanlinx, and WestWave (makers of the Pelamis system). Each array connects to the Wave Hub using an umbilical running from the generating device to one of the Wave Hub's four, 300 meter-long "tails." Each of these tails has a 4-5MW capacity. An onshore transformer increases the system's capacity up to a total of 20MW before the current enters the UK power grid.

The UK Wave Hub Powers 7,500 Cornish HomesThe Wave Hub is expected to generate sufficient electricity to light up 7,500 homes while saving 24,300 tons of carbon dioxide every year (compared to similar energy generation using fossil fuels).

The system is expected to eventually increase its capacity to roughly 50MW once 33kV cable technology reaches maturity.

[Wikipedia - Wave Hub - Physorg]

Monster Machines is all about the most exceptional machines in the world, from massive gadgets of destruction to tiny machines of precision, and everything in between.


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Friday, October 21, 2011

drag2share: Climate Change Skeptics Eat Crow [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5851909/climate-change-skeptics-eat-crow

Climate Change Skeptics Eat CrowGlobal warming skeptics suspected climate change scientists were hiding data. So the skeptics paid for a new study to find the real truth. The results are in! And they're identical to previous results: Humans are heating up the earth.

University of California physics professor Richard Muller, one of the most vocal skeptics, gathered a team of 10 scientists, mostly physicists, including 2011 Nobel Physics Prize winner Saul Perlmutter, to create the Berkeley Earth Project.

Climate Change Skeptics Eat CrowMuller et. al. thought that data from weather stations used for previous studies may have been off because those located close to cities would record artificially warm temperatures. So the Berkeley Earth Project used new methods to re-analyze data from 40,000 weather stations. And guess what? The resulting graph looks almost exactly the same as the graphs from previous studies. They found that the earth's temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius since 1950.

Climate Change Skeptics Eat CrowThe skeptics went so far as to hack into climate scientists' emails in 2009, after which they claimed to have found evidence that the famous "hockey stick" chart, which showed a sharp temperature increase in recent years, wasn't accurate.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, told the BBC he's ready for apologies, including one from Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who has accused scientists of manipulating data.

"So-called 'sceptics' should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities," he said.

"More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for 'sceptics' to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that CRU land temperature record had been doctored.

"It is now time for an apology from all those, including U.S. presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists."

Add this new study to your points on how to talk to a climate change skeptic. And maybe punctuate it with your middle finger.

[BBC; Image: Shutterstock/Martin Capek]


You can keep up with our Science Editor, Kristen Philipkoski, on Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally Google+

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

drag2share: GE's new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/17/ges-new-factory-will-push-out-one-solar-panel-every-ten-seconds/

General Electric is sending its troops to Colorado to conquer the thin film solar panel business. The 38th state will play home to a new facility that leverages the supermodel-thin panel know-how of PrimeStar Solar, which GE scooped up back in 2008. In traditional solar panels, sand is refined into silicon ingots, sliced wafers of which are then placed in a frame. The thin film process eliminates this, sandwiching layers of semiconductors between panes of glass -- saving time, money and, most importantly, energy. The factory will open ahead of schedule in 2012 and is reportedly capable of producing a new panel every ten seconds. You can learn all of that and more in the press release we've got for you after the break.

Continue reading GE's new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds

GE's new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 17 Oct 2011 15:55:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink BusinessWire  |  sourceGE Energy  | Email this | Comments

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Friday, October 14, 2011

drag2share: Pests Are Developing Resistance to Monsanto's Engineered Supercorn

Source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-08/first-major-case-us-gm-crop-resistance-pests-develop-resistance-monsantos-supercorn

The Adult Stage of the Western Corn Rootworm USDA

Some consumers may have a problem with genetically modified food crops, but in at least one case described in an Iowa State University researcher's paper there's one customer that's happy to consume Monsanto's GM corn: rootworms, the very pest the corn is modified to thwart. According to the paper, western corn rootworms in at least four northeast Iowa corn fields have developed a resistance to the natural pesticide in corn seed produced by Monsanto, marking the first time a major Midwest pest has developed a resistance to GM crops.

That could spell all kinds of trouble for food crops, farmers, Monsanto, and pretty much everyone who isn't a western corn rootworm. Though based on isolated cases thus far, the problem could be more widespread, and the paper is bound to rouse another debate on the benefits and demerits of GM crop cultivation and current farm management practices.

The big problem here would be, of course, the widespread proliferation of rootworm resistance. Monsanto first dropped their rootworm-resistant corn seeds on the market in 2003 at a time when its herbicide-resistant modifications had made Monsanto's seed extremely attractive to farmers, who could blanket their fields in herbicide and kill everything but their food crop plants. The corn seed also contains a gene that produces a crystalline protein called Cry3Bb1, which delivers an unpleasant demise to the rootworm (via digestive tract destruction) but otherwise is harmless to other creatures (we think).

The seed was so successful that it's estimated that roughly a third of U.S. corn now carries the gene. Which means one-third of U.S. corn could potentially be susceptible to rootworm again if the resistance that has reared its head in Iowa is indicative of a larger problem.

The good news is that the same rootworms that are resistant to Monsanto's special sauce are susceptible to a competitor's similar-but-different GM toxin. But if rootworms can develop a resistance to one strain of GM toxin, it stands to reason that--if farming practices remain unchanged--that it could eventually become resistant to others.

[WSJ]

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drag2share: Google Releases its Energy Consumption Numbers, Revealing a 260 Million Watt Continuous Suck

Source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-09/google-releases-its-energy-consumption-numbers-revealing-260-million-watt-continuous-suck

Just Look at All Those Cables There must be like a billion watts in there. sugree via Flickr

After years of playing such numbers extremely close to the vest, Google today released figures spelling out exactly how much electricity the company's massive computing resources consume. Its data centers continuously draw 260 million watts--roughly a quarter the output of a nuclear power plant, says the NYT--to keep services like Gmail, search, Google Ads, and YouTube up and running around the clock and around the globe.

How does that translate? Google also estimated that its total carbon emissions for 2010 were just below 1.5 million metric tons. Not all of Google's electricity comes from carbon resources--a quarter comes from renewable fuels like wind, thanks to some deals the company has made with utilities--but that's still some decent tonnage.

Still, Google argues that its consumption really isn't so bad. Its data centers carry out billions of operations--a billion searches per day alone--and many of those save fuel. Google searches save trips to the library or the travel agent, for instance, offsetting the power consumed by its processing farms. And when you break it down it's not so bad, considering the vast numbers of people using Google's services. The company said an average user consumes just 180-watt hours per month, which roughly equates to running a 60-watt light bulb for three hours.

And how does that power usage break down? Google apparently didn't detail every last watt, but it did say that search queries only burn 12.5 million of those 260 million watts. As for the other quarter billion, it's probably a pretty even split between Gchat and Rebecca Black.

[NYT]

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drag2share: New Shrimp Farming Technique Yields Record Hauls of Jumbo Shrimp from Minimal Water

Source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-09/new-shrimp-farming-technique-yields-record-hauls-jumbo-shrimp-minimal-water

Dr. Addison Lawrence, Left, and His Stackable Raceways System Patty Waits Beasley via PhysOrg

Remember that part of Forrest Gump where Forrest and Captain Dan are looking for shrimp but can't find any because there's too much competition for shrimp, but then the hurricane passes through and suddenly there's no competition for shrimp and there's just tons of shrimp to be had? This story is mostly not like that one, except it ends with a lot more shrimp than it starts with.

A new shrimp farming technology devised by researchers in Texas is churning out record-setting levels of shrimp. Called super-intensive stacked raceways, its a system of indoor aquaculture that generates far more shrimp per cubic meter of water than open pond farming or any other aquaculture technique. And it could be deployed just about anywhere.

The shrimp grow in huge enclosed tubs called raceways, stacked four high in a column. As the shrimp develop and grow under computer-controlled conditions (the water is carefully circulated but not completely renewed, keeping environmental costs and water usage in check), they are moved downward from one raceway to the next--baby shrimp go in the top and progress downward to the bottom raceway, from which they are eventually harvested.

That innovation--the ability to raise very large, protein-rich shrimp (they're called U15, but you probably know them as "jumbo") in very little water--means the kilo-per-cubic-meter numbers are through-the-roof: 25 kilograms of shrimp from just one cubic meter of water. For some perspective, that's equivalent to 1 million pounds of shrimp per acre of water. U.S. shrimp farms top out at about 20,000 pounds per acre of water. The best shrimp farms in tropical climates, working year round, yield something like 60,000 pounds per acre in a good year.

So we're talking about a vast improvement to our shrimp stores. But the impact isn't just an abundance of jumbo shrimp to batter up and fry. For one, it provides countries like the U.S. with a means to produce fresh shrimp (we import the vast majority of ours, and it's usually frozen and thawed a few times before it gets to us). And shrimp exporters like China are on the verge of becoming shrimp importers due to socioeconomic trends and population growth, and that would make shrimp quite expensive. With stacked raceways, we could have our own domestic supply of shrimp, circumventing the need for a series of violent "shrimp wars."

But further, this method could provide a simple-to-produce means of protein in places where food in general and protein in particular are growing scarce. Plus: jumbo shrimp you guys! These will go great on an hors d'oeuvre table next to those popper-optimized jalapenos we've been cultivating.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

drag2share: Virgin Atlantic launches low-carbon fuel, aims to halve carbon footprint (video)

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/11/virgin-atlantic-launches-low-carbon-fuel-aims-to-halve-carbon-f/

Richard Branson was in London today to announce "one of the most exciting developments of our lifetime." Right, so that'd be SpaceShipFour, we presume, capable of landing on the moon? No, not quite, but a low-carbon fuel would definitely be our second guess. Virgin Atlantic is partnering with LanzaTech, a company that specializes in carbon re-use technology, to recycle waste gasses from 65 percent of the world's steel mills. In Branson's own words, they'll be "taking much of the s**t from up the chimney stacks and turning it into aviation fuel." By capturing those gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, Virgin would be able to reduce its overall carbon footprint without necessarily reducing the carbon output of its individual aircraft. The airline plans to have the fuel ready for commercial use by 2014, and will begin trials on its routes from London to Shanghai and Delhi around that time -- two cities that have become synonymous with pollution. Jump past the break for an audio-less demonstration video -- that's right, there's nothing wrong with your speakers.

Continue reading Virgin Atlantic launches low-carbon fuel, aims to halve carbon footprint (video)

Virgin Atlantic launches low-carbon fuel, aims to halve carbon footprint (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 11 Oct 2011 17:31:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink&! nbsp;Huffington Post  |  sourceVirgin, Richard's Blog  | Email this | Comments

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

drag2share: This 20kW Power Plant Flies Itself [Video]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5847144/this-power-plant-flies-itself

This 20kW Power Plant Flies ItselfNo matter how tall a traditional wind turbine is built it can't reach the stronger, steadier winds that blow a quarter mile above the ground. That's why Makani Power traded the turbine's tower for a tether and created the Wing 7 aeronautic power plant.

The Wing 7 spans eight meters but weighs just 130 pounds thanks to its carbon fiber wing and rotor construction. The tether that keeps it attached to the base station also transmits electricity that the wing produces back to the ground. And in a 22 mph wind, it'll will generate 20 kW.

The Wing 7 launches vertically, drawing power from the tether to drive the rotors (which also act as propellers for thrust). Once it reaches a height of roughly 1500 feet, the wing will level out using its unique vertical tail wing and autonomously fly in swooping, crosswind circles while generating electricity. The rotors can also be used to slow the wing which reduces its altitude. To land, the wing transitions to back to vertical hovering before being gently winched back to the ground.

The Makani system actually behaves much like a conventional turbine, except that the wing itself functions like the turbine blade—albeit on a much larger path. This allows it to generate nearly double the energy of conventional turbines per unit of capacity. Makani hopes to boost the wing's power-generating by 2013 and have it to market by 2015.

[Makani Power - Popular Mechanics]

Monster Machines is all about the most exceptional machines in the world, from massive gadgets of destruction to tiny machines of precision, and everything in between.


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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

drag2share: Self-Cleaning Cloth Keeps Your Shirts Bacteria-Free With Pure Sunlight Power [Health]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5846219/self+cleaning-clothes-kills-bacteria-dead

Self-Cleaning Cloth Keeps Your Shirts Bacteria-Free With Pure Sunlight PowerThis is laundry science at work. Researchers at the University of California at Davis have developed a compound that blends into cotton clothes and, when exposed to sunlight, destroys bacteria and toxins.

The compound is known as 2-anthraquinone carboxylic acid, or 2-AQC, and can be incorporated into cotton threads without the risk of washing off. After an hour's exposure to our yellow sun, the super compound produces reactive oxygen species, such as hydroxyl radicals and hydrogen peroxide, that break down nasties like E. coli and dangerous pesticides.

While it probably won't lift your average grass stain, the researchers hope to see it applied in health care, food processing, and even the military. I take this as the first step toward clothes that won't ever have to be washed again. [Journal of Material Chemistry via CNet]

Image Credit: Patricia A. Phillips/Shutterstock


You can keep up with Kwame Opam, the author of this post, on Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally Google+.

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